ウワミズザクラ(Prunus grayana )

 長野県の北部へ引っ越して来て、この木をはじめて知りました。地域ではおなじみの樹種で、アファンの森にもあります。科学的な名前はPrunus grayanaで、英語ではジャパニーズ・バード・チェリーとも呼ばれ、西欧では観賞用の庭園の植栽に使われています。








UWAMIZU SAKURA(Prunus grayana )  

 I did not know this tree before I came to live here in northern Nagano. It is quite common in our area and we have it in our Afan woods. Uwamizu sakura is in the cherry family. Its scientific name is Prunus grayana. In English it is also called ‘Japanese bird cherry’ and is quite popular with ornamental gardens in the west.

  Uwamizu sakura can grow 8 to 20 metres, although the ones we see around here are small (5 to 8 metres) with slender, smooth, greyish purple bark.

  The leaves look like other cherry tree leaves, but the flowers, at first glance, are quite different.  The tree blossoms after the leaves, with lovely racemes – thumb-sized clusters of tiny, fragrant white flowers about 7 to 10 millimeters in diameter, each little flower having five little petals.  In our area they bloom two or three weeks after the mountain cherries.  These little flowers are hermaphrodite; they have both male and female parts. They are pollinated by insects.

  These flowers produce tiny cherries that are first green in colour, turning red, then finally black.  Friends tell me that if you soak the flowers in shochu or awamori you get a good taste, but I haven’t tried it so far. The fruit and seeds are also edible, and are traditionally salted. This is one of the few forest foods that I have yet to try. Some western authorities claim that the fruit and seeds are toxic, but as it is a traditional food in Japan, and only eaten in very small quantities, so I wouldn’t worry about it. (Some people claim that warabi (bracken tips) but we eat them regularly in spring and have had no trouble.)

  The wood is hard but easily split. It is used for cabinet making, printing blocks, tool handles and so on. Bark and roots can be used to produce a green dye. It is a small tree, but one of my favorites. I’ll have to try that shochu or awamori uwamizu drink, maybe next year before we get too busy!

C.W. Nicol

May 2018